Spore.com Evaluation and Recommendation Memo
LCC 3401 February 27, 2008
DATE: February 27, 2008 TO: Will Wright, Game Designer FROM: Donna Yoo, Website Consultant SUBJECT: Spore.com Website Evaluation and Recommendation
INTRODUCTION A user analysis of the Spore.com website was performed with a small group of 5 people. Presented in this memo are the results my analysis, results of the questionnaire, and recommendations for the improvement of Spore.com. The surveys are attached at the end of the memo. OVERVIEW
Spore.com was evaluated according to accessibility, usability, content, and visual design. Accessibility is the ability for the most possible users to access the site; this includes users who speak different languages and users with different hardware and software limitations. Usability is how effectively the website “effectively and easily enables people to accomplish their goals” (Burnett, 2005). The content of the website includes the text, graphics, and video that disseminate information to the user. Visual design includes the design of the web page, color, layout, and graphics. Accessibility Spore.com is neither completely inaccessible nor very accessible. I found the Spore.com website to have some accessibility problems because it requires specific software, such as Flash 7 and Quicktime to run. Another significant problem is that there is not a low-bandwidth alternative which alienates some users. Because much of the content is contained within videos, users with a slower connection are unable to access certain information. However, the website is offers a variety of regional and language options which allow users from various parts of the world to access and understand the information provided in the site. Only 40% of the people surveyed found the website easy to navigate, but none experienced problems accessing the website. There were no problems accessing the site using Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, but it is possible some users using other browsers may have difficulty viewing the site. Additionally some movies are offered in a low and high bandwidth version while some are not. One video shows the people talking about the game in English and it is captioned in German. The information within the video is interesting and informative, but it is only accessible to English or German speaking users.
Usability The goal of the website should be 1) to inform the user about the game Spore and 2) to persuade the user to purchase the game. There is very little information about the game on the site, and more information about the game can be found on other websites such as wikipedia.org, through the outside links provided in the “SPORE In The News” section, or at gamestop.com. A list of minimum system requirements, which is critical information for the user, is nowhere to be found on the site. The results of the survey show that 100% of people believe that access to that information is beneficial to them. There is no information on the website that informs the user where they may purchase the game; 100% of test users agree that the website would be better if there were links to sites where users could purchase the game. This lack of crucial information decreases the site’s usability. Because of the simple design of the website, it takes the user a short amount of time to navigate through the site. However, the visual menu may be confusing to the user because there are no labels. Outside links to articles open in the same window as the Spore.com website, and the only way to return to the main website is to use the browser’s back button. This becomes tedious when the user must continually return to the previous page to find another article. No test users found any content or technical errors with the site. Content Although Spore.com’s content is presented well, there is not a lot of accessible content. The flash animation on the first page of the website provides a visual overview of the different stages of the game, but this also affects the accessibility of the site. The website displays a good use of chunking and white space for the different stages of the games. All text is short, concise, and gives the reader the most information in the smallest amount of text. A majority of the content is available in videos and screen caps which provide a lot of visual information about the game. This is an effective way to convey the same information without language barriers. Presenting content visually is very useful since the game is visual, however this also adds to the accessibility problem, since users with slower internet access can not access this information at all; one test user criticized the long load times. Also, there are no labels or summaries about the videos, so the user must watch the video to know what it is about. The links provided in the “SPORE In The News” section are nicely chunked and labeled and provides the user with a short description of the article. The logos displayed at the footer of the website, as well as the mention of The Sims, increase the credibility of the game and of the website. Ads appear randomly and are not overly distracting to the user. Most of the textual information is written in an active voice, and engages the user. Visual Design The design of the site is simple and basic, with the menu at the top. The simple layout is intuitive and very easy to navigate. The menu is visual and incorporates no text. This can be confusing and affects the user’s ability to locate the information they are looking for. One test user specifically expressed their confusion about the visual menu. All the page titles clearly show the user where they are in the site, and the large Spore animation at the
top of the page clearly tells the user that they are at Spore.com. The colors for the headings, text, links, and background are consistent throughout the site. The headings are in a muted green, which is appropriate for the site since green reminds the user of nature and life (which are related to the game). 80% of those surveyed agree that color choices are coordinated and do not compete or detract from one another. The use of color on the website also helps organize and break up the content on the page; headings are green, text is white, and links are orange. The graphics, such as the small pictures next to the description about the game stages, provide some clarification for the user. Only 40% agree that the graphics enhanced the website and provided clarification. The large graphics, such as the screen caps, are shown as thumbnails, and the user can click on the thumbnail to see a larger size; this helps decrease load time and allows the users to select which photos they wish to load and view. CONCLUSION
60% of those surveyed stated that Spore.com does successfully peak their interest in the game; however 100% agree that there should be more information about the game on the site. The site does generate user interest about the game and should influence the user to return to the site in the future. Nonetheless, with the overabundance of websites that one person sees in one day, the likeliness that most users will 1) remember the website 2) remember to keep checking the website updates is small. 80% of those surveyed stated that they would not return to the site. The newsletter partially resolves this problem, but none of the tests users wanted to receive frequent newsletters or subscribe to a newsletter when they only want specific information. Users, interested in purchasing the game, can not find information about buying the game on the Spore.com website. That information is only available through the ea.com website or through vendors that sell the game. 80% of those surveyed agree that information on where the game is available would be useful for the user. RECOMMENDATIONS With a few changes and additions, the Spore.com website can improve its usability, accessibility, content, and visual design. Accessibility To increase the accessibility of the website, I recommend offering a low bandwidth version for users without high speed access. Because much of the information about the game is dispersed through videos, having more textual information about the game would be beneficial for those who either can not or do not want to the watch the videos. Disseminating information through video seriously limits the number of people who will get to the information. Critical information like the release date should be available in text. The Flash animation makes the site less accessible for those who do not have Flash 7 or a fast internet connection. This problem can be addressed by allowing the user to skip the animation before it begins to load. The videos with speech should be accompanied with
captioning or a transcript so users hard of hearing or who do not speak English can understand the information in the video. Usability The overall purpose of the site is to get users to purchase the game, and information on where to buy the game should also be included. Adding labels or ALT labels to the menu icons will make the site more usable for the user as well. Although the site is simple, some sort of search function or index should be included because that allows the user to go directly to the information they are seeking. The links to outsides articles could be opened in a new window or within a frame. This allows the user to easily return to Spore.com or to open multiple articles at once. A short title or summary about the videos should be added so the user can watch the specific video they desire and so they know exactly what they are watching. Content Currently the website is more of a teaser website than a website that provides useful information to the user. I would recommend adding more information about the game, such as minimum system requirements, information about the release, and more in depth information about the game. Gamestop.com’s website provided more information about the game than Spore.com. For example, Spore.com does not mention, that plants, buildings, creatures, and vehicles in the user’s game are downloaded from a central database which is supplied by other gamers. This type of information, that informs and creates interest in the game, should be included in the website. Visual Design At this time there is no way to let the user know where they have been on the site. Since there are only three main pages of the website, the user can easily keep track of where they have been. However, the lack of a “breadcrumb trail” can be frustrating while watching the videos. There is no easy way for the user to keep track of which videos they have already watched. The videos should either be labeled so the user can keep track of which videos they have watched, or the website should be responsible for keeping track of the videos the user has watched. All the test users stated that they would prefer that the videos had labels of names.